A decade of action-research in supporting services for people living with difficulty, disadvantage or disability
This paper presents a proven structure and process to ensure that an entrepreneurial initiative will improve the lives and lifestyles of people living under difficult circumstances in practical terms. The resulting model has been trialed and refined with and through Australian nonprofit organisations providing services, programs, products, publications or entrepreneurial activities – including commercial initiatives – in a wide range of health and human services.
This paper briefly introduces 3 basic models that have significantly contributed to this decade of work – CIPPO Model of Community Needs Assessment and Evaluation, Daniel Stufflebeam: RMC Organisational Framework, Jean Roberts: and Quality Maturity Grid, Philip Crosby & Associates.
The paper finishes with the outline of a proven process for replicating a proven service model and organisational framework into other contexts.
Ms Jean Roberts
Director, Roberts Management Concepts Pty Ltd
The experiences that led to my decade of action-research from 1989 to 1999 include employment from 1976 to 1985 as a community education officer. My role was to link over 30 schools and their local communities in identifying and addressing local needs and, on the basis of such community needs assessment, to design and introduce community-based and school-based programs and initiatives to address or remedy the identified needs.
Since 1985, I have worked as an independent, self-employed consultant in all 6 states and 2 territories of Australia with a wide range of nonprofit organisations in organisational reviews, committee/board development and assessment, management reviews, strategic and business planning, marketing, amalgamation, strategic alliances, measurable consumer outcomes, needs-based planning and competitive tendering. I have written and published a number of books and papers offering practical strategies and tools to assist nonprofit organisations in providing services that improve the lives or lifestyles of the people who use their services.
Major action-research projects
Three major action-research projects contributed to the design, development and publishing of my own organisational framework, which has become the template for all of my work and writing.
These three major action-research projects, funded by the Commonwealth and Victorian Governments, focused on organisations providing services for people with disabilities.
1. Governance Project, 1989-1996 – identifying the training and support needs of voluntary committees in Victorian organisations providing services for people with an intellectual disability, and writing a committee training manual. This project was carried out in collaboration with the Council of Intellectual Disability Agencies Incorporated, Victoria (CIDA) and funded by the Victorian Department of Community Services. CIDA at that time had a membership base of over 130 organisations. Throughout the project, I worked closely with the Human Resources Sub-committee of the CIDA Board.
This project consisted of 4 stages:
- on-site visits to 21 CIDA member-agencies in all regions of Victoria, spending at least 2 days with each agency to identify issues and concerns of committee members and their managers relating to their roles, responsibilities and relationships.
- writing a series of checklists offering strategies and tools to address the identified issues and concerns, and circulating these for trial in 52 CIDA member-agencies across Victoria.
- organising and facilitating a state-wide seminar (attended by 80 people from participating organisations) to determine the most appropriate structure, format and language for the training manual. The objective of the manual was to inform and develop governance and management confidence, ability and skill among committee members and their managers in CIDA member agencies.
- organising and hosting 9 regional seminars on the legal obligations and financial responsibilities of committee members, and clarifying the relationship between committee and manager.
- writing the Craft of Management, a 300-page training manual for voluntary committees in CIDA member-agencies, reflecting the issues and concerns identified in Stages 1 and 2. The training manual comprised of 7 modules, 35 units and 23 training activities, with the first module being a train-the-trainer segment to assist committee members to facilitate their own training sessions: the manual introduces processes (how to do things) and procedures (what should be done) in governance and management.
- the first edition was launched by the Victorian Minister for Community Services at the CIDA State Conference in 1992, and copies were distributed to all CIDA member-agencies and all Departmental offices in Victoria.
- conducting a survey among CIDA member-agencies on the use and application of the training manual.
- writing a generic edition of the training manual, published by CIDA in 1996, and expanding the contents to apply to any nonprofit organisation in Australia.
2. Leadership Project, 1992-1993 - researching and writing a manual for directors of boards of the 150+ sheltered workshops in Australia to encourage extension of employment services for people with intellectual disabilities from sheltered to supported and competitive employment in integrated commercial settings. This project was a program of the National Technical Assistance Unit (NTAU) attached to the Mt Eliza Australian Management College and funded by the Disability Services Division of the Commonwealth Department of Health and Human Services. Throughout the project, I worked closely with the Chief Executive of NTAU.
This project consisted of 3 stages:
- identifying and examining existing documents and publications designed to assist nonprofit boards and board directors in their governance role and responsibilities: this search and analysis included in-house documents and publications as well as those prepared by large consulting firms
- discussions with disability employment service board directors and their CEOs, departmental officers, NTAU personnel and a unit within Coopers & Lybrand, Melbourne.
- writing the Leadership for Transition Manual which was then distributed to all disability employment organisation providing sheltered workshop employment and support to people with disabilities throughout Australia.
- together with clarification of the role and responsibilities of board directors, the manual included an outline of compliance requirements under the Commonwealth Disability Service Act 1986; Commonwealth Corporations Law; transition from sheltered to open/competitive employment environments and the National Disability Services Standards
- a feature of the Manual was a Directors’ Checklist to be used as a self-assessment tool by individual board directors to check aspects of their duties and obligations items about which they felt confident and items about which they needed to know more
the manual was then distributed to all sheltered workshops in Australia.
3.Reference Manual Project, 1994-1995 – researching and writing a manual setting out the roles and responsibilities of voluntary committees of organisations providing disability employment services ranging from open employment to enclaves. This project was carried out in collaboration with (and funded by) the Commonwealth Department of Health and Human Services, Disability Services Division. Throughout the project, I worked closely with the Commonwealth Disability Service Division’s Senior Management.
This project consisted of 3 stages:
- identifying the responsibilities and obligations associated with the funding and service agreement (FASA) between individual disability employment services and the Disability Services Division: the FASA sets out the terms and conditions of funding, in particular the measurable outcomes to be achieved
- facilitating workshops with voluntary committees and managers of disability employment services (2 in Victoria, 1 in New South Wales and 1 in Western Australia) and with departmental officers in Victoria, New South Wales and Western Australia
- writing the Reference Manual, which included a pull-out flow-chart of the process of negotiating and implementing a funding and service agreement from the perspectives of the Disability Services Division and the funded organisation: the flowchart demonstrated both positive and negative paths
- the manual comprises 13 sections covering the role, responsibilities and relationships of the committee and manager, and includes 4 best practice checklists on (a) participative decision-making, (b) committee member recruiting and orientation, (c) community outreach and (d) introducing business principles and practices
- presenting a national seminar program (covering the 6 states and 2 territories of Australia) to introduce and distribute the Reference Manual to disability service providers and departmental officers
- in all, 24 seminars were held during 1995, with a total attendance of 565 people from approximately 200 disability service providers, with one seminar specifically designed for committee members with intellectual disabilities and another for committee members with psychiatric disorders.
Action-research activity has been a feature of my consultancy and training work with a wide variety of organisations providing services to people living with or affected by difficulty, disadvantage or disability. These are organisations providing ‘needs-based’ services, which involves the process of identifying the needs, interests or aspirations of the client or target group, and the design of services based on such needs analysis that will enhance or improve the life or lifestyle of clients.
This decade of action-research has resulted in the development and refinement of a large number of techniques, tools, checklists and proformas to guide replicability of proven organisation and service models into a variety of consumer groups and cultures.
3 basic models that have significantly contributed to my decade of action- research
My commitment is to a process of empowering individuals and groups by directly involving them in identifying their own needs and choosing the most appropriate and acceptable manner of either addressing or remedying their identified needs. Replicability is a major factor in all of my work.
The first requirement in any action-research project is to identify suitable theoretical models and frameworks which can reliably provide templates against which ‘actual’ as well as ‘hypothetical’ situations can be compared and improvement planned.
In my work as community education officer, I had frequently used Daniel Stufflebeam’s CIPPO Model of Community Needs Assessment and Evaluation which separates and connects the components of context, input, process, product and outcome.
As I moved into my decade of action-research, continuing emphasis was being placed by governments and other funding sources on ‘outcomes’: the language included ‘outcome-based funding’. The message was that the focus had moved from ‘inputs’ to ‘outcomes’. In other words, don’t tell us what you need: rather tell us what benefits you will create in the lives and lifestyles of people in need (ie outcomes) as a result of the way in which you use or apply your inputs.
Then, as the 90′s progressed, we heard more and more about ‘measurable consumer outcomes’. This meant that service providers needed to begin their planning sequence by identifying the nature and extent of improvement or benefit in the life or lifestyle of the consumer that could be achieved by or through a suitably designed program, process or service.
Therefore, while being loyal to Stufflebeam’s CIPPO model, I added an extra ‘O’ by inserting ‘outputs’ into the sequence:
- the context is the state of an organisation at a particular time with a quantifiable resource base. Inputs are additional resources added to the existing resource base. Inputs are then processed into a range of product or service components. Outputs or services, programs, publications, etc., are then provided and offered to consumers. Outcomes are finally the effect of outputs on the life or lifestyle of individual consumers.
- inputs and processes are the means by which products and outputs are created. Products and outputs are the end result of processing inputs within the context of the organisation’s available resources.
By beginning the planning sequence at the outcome stage, an organisation must determine, together with the consumer, the need or gap that is to be addressed or remedied. The organisation can then determine the nature and range of products that need to be processed with existing resources or the nature and range of inputs that need to be obtained to supplement the existing resource base.
By examining the need or gap, a measurable consumer outcome can be agreed between the organisation and the consumer.
An early requirement in my decade of action-research was an appropriate organisational framework that could be used and offered as a template or ‘knitting pattern’ against which both I and the organisations I was working with could compare existing structures and processes.
My search through available organisational frameworks proved the need for a framework designed particularly for the nonprofit sector, one that included a voluntary committee or board, external funding sources with attached terms and conditions, and the need to design services that would achieve measurable outcomes for service-users.
In the absence of such a model, I designed the RMC Organisational Framework to:
1.emphasise the separation and relationship between, and therefore provide clarity on, the organisation and service within an incorporated organisation
2.demonstrate that one organisation is able to provide a number of services .. which may include revenue-raising activities or commercial enterprises
3.demonstrate the importance of critical success factors in an incorporated nonprofit organisation.
4.demonstrate the relationship between critical success factors and performance indicators in ensuring internal quality management and continuous improvement.
Major components are:
1.Organisational or operating structure
an organisational structure is a formal pattern of relationships within the legal structure, showing how people in all positions of authority within an organisation relate to each other. The formal organisation structure should support and strengthen the organisation’s objects as they are listed in the statement of purposes, ie the purpose for which the organisation has been incorporated, and should demonstrate:
- the nature and extent of authority delegated throughout the organisation
- who is accountable to whom and for what
- how decisions are made, communicated, implemented and evaluated
- how information moves through the organisation.
2.Association or company members – individuals or organisations who are committed to the Statement of purpose and who are fulfilling the requirements for membership as set out in the rules.
3.Committee members or board directors – association or company members elected or appointed to the committee of management or board of directors in accordance with the rules.
The legal duties and obligations of committee members or board directors include:
- fiduciary duties – exercising their powers in the best interests of the association or company and acting in good faith.
- duties of skill and care – exercising their powers with reasonable skill and care
- incorporation regulatory requirements – acting in accordance with the requirements set out in incorporation legislation and the organisation’s rules
- general regulatory requirements – acting in accordance with all other relevant laws, eg industrial relations, occupational health and safety, equal employment opportunity, the environment, taxation, workers’ compensation, superannuation and any legislation pertinent to the purpose for which the association has been incorporated.
4.Committee of Management or Board of Directors – as the governing body, has responsibility to govern the affairs of the legal entity on behalf of all association or company members and in accordance with the rules. The Committee or Board is legally accountable to the body of association or company members for its decisions, actions and obligations on their behalf and in their interest.
The governing body is required to govern according to:
- the laws relating to the organisation as a legal entity and laws relating to the purpose for which the organisation has been established
- he philosophy, objects, rules and by-laws set out in the constitution
- terms, conditions and obligations of legislative, contractual and service agreements
- committee/board-endorsed strategies, policies, procedures, practices and code of ethics
The challenge for the governing body is to ensure the best possible practices in governance, management and operation that ensure the best possible experience and outcomes for consumers.
5.Annual general meeting (AGM)
The annual general meeting is the formal occasion at which the Committee or Board is required to present its annual report on management and operational activities, including an audited, accurate and up-to-date account of the financial performance of the association for the immediate past financial year.
The annual report, a feature of an annual general meeting, is a document of accountability from the governing body to its membership on the year preceding the annual general meeting, and is a statutory requirements under incorporation legislation.
6.Senior staff position. The governing body delegates authority to the CEO/senior staff member to manage the day-to-day operation of the purpose for which the organisation exists (ie the service) within the committee/board-endorsed strategic and policy framework. Together, the committee/board and CEO determine the strategic direction and destiny of the organisation. The CEO is directly accountable to the governing body.
7.Best possible experience for service-users. The committee/board is accountable to the organisation’s members to adopt the ‘best possible practices’ of governance, management and operation in order to ensure and provide the ‘best possible experience’ for clients or consumers of services.
8.Separation of organisation and service. Within this organisational framework, the term ‘organisation’ refers to the legal entity, membership, elected governing body, committee/board structure and process, and the CEO.
The CEO is accountable to the governing body for the management and operation of the agreed service or services through a suitably qualified, experienced and competent body of staff.
9.External funding of the organisation for provision of services
The organisation receives all or part of its revenue from external sources to fund or part-fund the provision of services to a particular consumer group. Where external grants or subsidies are received or contracts negotiated, they are frequently made on the basis of a negotiated funding, service or contractual agreement which sets out the terms, conditions and requirements of the organisation, and the nature and scope of support available from, the funding source.
There may be a requirement of the organisation to ensure that particular service standards are met and maintained in the provision of the funded service/s.
10.The CEO is the critical link between the organisation and the service
The governing body is dependent upon information provided to it by the CEO in making decisions on behalf of the total organisation – decisions for which committee/board members are directly and legally accountable. It is critical therefore that committee/board members ensure that the CEO provides adequate, accurate and up-to-date information regarding the operational activity and financial viability of the organisation and the service.
It is only through the proper utilisation of this critical link that the services provided by the organisation can be maintained to a level that provides a best possible experience for the consumers of the organisation’s services.
In assessing the performance of the CEO, it is crucial that the governing body (together with the CEO) determine critical success factors and performance indicators.
11.Critical success factors
A critical success factor is a key factor which, if not functioning or operating to the desired level of quality, effectiveness and performance, may place the organisation at risk.
When formally identified and positioned, critical success factors can be monitored to ensure successful processes, procedures and outcomes: and form the basis for quality management and continuous improvement of the organisation’s affairs and activities.
12.Comparison with best practices
In the process of introducing total quality control, each critical success factor should be analysed for comparison with best practices in identical or similar organisations or environments. Continuous improvement to strengthen or ensure the satisfactory achievement of each critical success factor is a basic characteristic of total quality management.
In order to review and introduce best possible practices, benchmarking can be adopted after recognising the nature or extent of change needed to ensure continuous improvement.
As well as adopting a set of critical success factors, the governing body and CEO should adopt an appropriate set of internal performance indicators to measure and ensure the quality of functions and service-provision within the total organisation.
A performance indicator is an agreed standard against which success can be measured. Performance indicators should be established, introduced into the internal reporting procedures and used to ensure and maintain continuous improvement.
Performance indicators should facilitate the governing body’s judgement on the extent to which the organisation’s objectives are being achieved. Progress against the internal performance indicators should be registered monthly and included in the CEO’s reports to the governing body.
Towards the end of my decade of action-research, I recognised the need to address the issue of job satisfaction for committee members and board directors. A key factor in job satisfaction is effectiveness. A committee member of board director may well ask this question – “Am I making an effective contribution to this organisation through my efforts and performance as a committee member or board director?”
On this matter, I turned to Quality Maturity Grid (Philip Crosby & Associates) a 5-stage Quality Management Maturity Grid, with language that relates specifically to the manufacturing industry. Philip Crosby details this Grid in his highly regarded book Quality is Free – the art of making quality certain (Author, Philip B Crosby: Publisher, McGraw Hill, 1979).
Philip Crosby’s 5-Stage Quality Maturity Grid
- Stage 5: Certainty
Stage 4: Wisdom
Stage 3: Enlightenment
Stage 2: Awakening
Stage 1: Uncertainty
In choosing to work with this Grid, individual companies do not assume that they are at Stage 1: they carefully identify the stage that demonstrates their operational performance – and then commence a planned progression to or toward Stage 5.
On achieving Stage 5, the challenge is to ensure continuous improvement in their processes and products that consistently attain and reflect the Stage 5 attributes.
In looking for a model to use in developing a Committee/Board performance tool, I have adapted Philip Crosby’s 5-Stage Quality Maturity Management Grid in developing the 5 Levels of Quality Maturity in Nonprofit Committee of Management Performance.
5 Levels of Quality Maturity in Committee of Management Performance
- Level 5: Entrepreneurial activity
Level 4: Quality definitions and methods
Level 3: Risk management, risk avoidance
Level 2: Performance improvement
Level 1: Role, Responsibilities, Relationships
Level 1 is the entry point for committee members and board directors to discuss among themselves and agree which level of quality maturity demonstrates their current level of performance as the governing body in their legal entity. Obviously, without confidence and competence in Level 1 attributes, it is extremely difficult for a committee or board to plan improvement in the quality of their own performance.
Each Level through to Level 5 indicates an increasing maturity and consistency in:
- quality of committee performance, and
- levels of committee member confidence and competence.
As with companies choosing to work with Philip Crosby’s model, the challenge for a committee or board, on reaching Level 5, is to ensure continuous improvement in the performance of their governance duties and obligations to ensure the planning and delivery of services that are consistent with Level 5 quality attributes.
Continuous improvement of service provision is in line with the RMC Organisational Framework’s emphasis on ensuring the best possible practices to ensure the best possible experience and outcomes for consumers – and with outcome-based planning based on Stufflebeam’s CIPPO (with the extra O) model.
Philip Crosby’s language can be translated into nonprofit terms:
Philip Crosby’s terms
Management understanding and attitude =Attitude and behaviour of governance and management
Quality organisation status = How quality and quality improvement are regarded within the organisation
Problem handling = The manner and extent to which problems or risks are anticipated and therefore either (1) avoided or (2) managed if and when they do occur
Cost of quality as % of sales = Cost effectiveness and cost efficiencies in terms of the real cost of service planning and service delivery
Quality improvement actions = Planned and resourced activity toward quality improvement within the organisation
Summation of company quality posture = One sentence to sum up the overall attitude within the organisation to the relevance and importance of quality
Reviewing the experience with and benefits of action-research
The CIPPOO and RMC Organisational Framework models have been trialed and refined by more than 100 nonprofit organisations in Australia: in fact I am often surprised to find them quoted back to me as being both useful and appropriate. More lately, the Quality Maturity Model is being introduced and trialed in a number of nonprofit organisations in Tasmania.
In brief, the CIPPOO model ensures that planning starts with the consumer: the Organisational Framework provides a template to design a new organisation or to compare an existing one: and the Quality Maturity Grid provides a continuous quality improvement model based on committee or board effectiveness in its governance duties and responsibilities.
Collectively, they provide a proven structure and process to ensure that an entrepreneurial initiative will improve the lives and lifestyles of people living under difficult circumstances in practical terms.
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